ANTIQUITY & PHOTOGRAPHY: The Open University (London), September 10 2015
The fantasy of capturing the ancient world on film has fired the popular imagination ever since the early 19th century. Whether allowing armchair tourists the opportunity to view ancient sites without the need for travel, or reanimating ancient history and myth in flesh and blood, rather than pen and paint, the camera has, for more than two centuries, channelled a unique vision of the distant past. But while cinema’s relationship with antiquity has been endlessly studied in recent years, the same cannot be said of still photography, in all its forms. From the earliest days of the daguerreotype, which quickly became a valuable means of depicting archaeological sites, to the artistic photography of the present day, which can variously recreate and redestroy antiquity using both analogue and digital processes, the photographic medium is a powerful vehicle for exploring and commenting on our relationship to the past, which deserves to be examined in much more detail.
This one-day colloquium aims to provide a forum for colleagues interested in this area of research, in which any question or topic related to the theme of Antiquity and Photography can be discussed. In particular, it is hoped that the colloquium will explore some of the more creative and/or subjective ways in which photography has addressed the ancient past, in addition to its use as a tool for documenting archaeological finds.
11-1 Panel 1
Joanna Paul (Open University), ‘Time’s Relentless Melt: capturing Pompeii in contemporary art photography’
Shelley Hales (University of Bristol), ‘Commemorating the Dead: Pompeian corpses and post-mortem photography’
Clemence Schultze (University of Durham), ‘Borrowed authority: photography in reconstructing the Parthenon’
Ian Walker (University of South Wales), ‘Photographing the Parthenon frieze at one remove’
2-3.30 Panel 2
Jill Mitchell (University of Wales Trinity Saint David), ‘How to Record Life Moments: Photography as a means of recreating moments of a life in antiquity’
Alison Rosenblitt (University of Oxford), ‘Cummings’ Paganism and the Photography of Marion Morehouse’
Zena Kamash (Royal Holloway, University of London), ‘Site Seeing: visitor photography at Pompeii from the late 19th century to the present day’
4-6 Panel 3
Katy Soar (University of Sheffield), ‘Framing the Minoans: Representing Knossos in early twentieth century postcards’
Amanda Couch (University for the Creative Arts Farnham, and Creative Arts Education), ‘Dust, (photographic) grain, livers and me’
A Q&A session with Grace Vane Percy, photographer (Venus, Quartet Books, 2014)
Film’s Not Dead: A Helping Hand For VENUS
London based photographer Grace Vane Percy has been creating a beautiful body of work over a number of years where she has been exploring the Venus poses & the female body. Her work has been shot on mostly medium format film as well as some 7×5 sheet film. Vane Percy is now looking for funding to help her put this project into a book:
“I have been working on this self-funded project for over four years and it’s finally ready to be published. With your support and generosity, all this planning and work can finally be brought out into the real world. Shot mainly on medium format B&W film in some of the UK’s most celebrated country houses, my series of 54 unique images and 15,000 words of text is completed. Locations include famous and historically significant houses, from Alnwick Castle, where Harry Potter was filmed, to Castle Howard where Brideshead was revisited twice. The photographs combine the female form with architecture in a manner never before seen. The halls, of Houghton and Holkham, the gallery of Newby Hall, as well as follies and fountains provide the perfect setting.
Venus is the mother of all female nudity in art. She is known for her ethereal beauty, which transcends mere desire. With the advent of photography this disassociation from the mortal world became difficult to execute. In this series, the concept of perfect encapsulation of female beauty is reclaimed and represented for the modern world.
The result will be a full-color (for richness & depth of tonal quality), black and white, litho laser press printed book, on finest quality paper saddle bound, hard-back, coffee table book.”
Thank you Film’s not Dead, I’m such a fan! It’s a real honour to be featured.
Harper’s Bazzar ROYAL BABYWATCH: WEEK 31
Recent new mother Rebecca Newman has been following the course of the Duchess of Cambridge’s pregnancy with week by week advice on what to expect when you’re expecting.
As the Duchess of Cambridge approaches her due date, so Royal Babywatch draws to its close. As Kate prepares for the last push – forgive me – Royal Babywatch concludes with a round up of the last details which will help her ease stylishly and confidently into motherhood. We wish her, and her infant, every happiness.
The lissom Grace Vane Percy works transatlantically, specialising in the female nude; her granular black and white signature style is especially suited to the pregnant form (gracevanepercy.com).
Art Palm Beach Jan 2013Grace Vane Percy’s series of female nudes in classical settings reflect a strong creative flair, and artistic sensibility. The glorious, stately, backdrops celebrate English Palladian architecture at its finest. The Financial Times comments “Vane Percy’s approach is resolutely artistic” reflecting her training at the Charles Cecil studios in Florence as a classical artist working mainly in charcoal. This has also influenced her comprehension of anatomy, and the strong sense of chiaroscuro which is visible in her current work. Grace herself grew up in an English country house in Cambridgeshire. Her love of photography started from an early age when she discovered her father’s collection of Victorian glass plate negatives. She studied history of Art at the Courtauld Institute and Fashion photography and darkroom techniques at Central St. Martins. She has been commissioned to photograph some of the most elite and successful women in London and New York. She has been invited to join the ‘Women In Photography’ Archive at Yale. In the words of London’s Evening Standard – “Grace is the best in town if not the world.
Sunday Times Style Magazine March 2012
How I Make It Work
Grace Vane Percy, 30 is a photographer specialising in nude portraits. She live in her studio in Notting Hill with her husband, a freelance stage designer
HOW DID YOU GET INTO NUDE PORTRAITURE?
I started out doing children’s portraits, then one day I got a call from a woman asking if I would do a naked shot of her pregnant. She’d had a terrible time with her first pregnancy, so this one held special significance. I realised that being photographed in your most vulnerable state can really help a person work through their issues.
WHAT DO YOU GET OUT OF IT?
I’m very interested in people, so I find the way nudity transforms us is fascinating. I’m also trained in classical art and really enjoy the aesthetic nature of what I do, and o love to show my clients something beautiful about themselves.
WHY DO PEOPLE WANT TO BE PHOTOGRAPHED NAKED?
When I started out, I worried I’d get lots of husbands wanting to celebrate their trophy wives’ plastic surgery. But usually it’s regular women, commissioning portraits of themselves wanting to celebrate a landmark birthday, for themselves or their partner, losing a lot of weight or something like having a baby. The picture hanging in their home reminds them to feel great about themselves and their body.
HOW DO CLIENTS PREPARE?
They have to exfoliate and moisturise the day before and on the day I ask them to wear loose clothing and no underwear, as it leaves marks on the skin. I also think the less hair and make-up the better. Too much make-up looks really odd when your face no longer has to compete with your clothes. They normally disrobe behind my giant reflector, and there’s always that ‘jump into the pool’ feeling – but once the clothes are off, feelings of awkwardness pass quickly.
WHAT DO YOU TALK TO THEM ABOUT?
I sometimes feel like my work is a mini therapy session. Once somebody is comfortable about being naked they tend to open up, and will chat to me about all kinds of problems and issues in their lives. They often tell me they leave feeling lighter.
WHAT DIRECTION DO YOU GIVE?
A lot! I’m really bossy! But seriously, capturing somebody in 2-D really exaggerates bad posture, so I ask my subjects to work on a ‘ribcage tilt’. Your breastbone moves upwards when you take a deep breath – your tummy tightens and your shoulders drop back, which gives you at least and extra inch of height.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNT ABOUT WOMEN’S BODIES FROM YOUR WORK?
I go to yoga twice a week because, through my observation, yoga bodies age the best. It tones in a feminine way, and keeps your skin taut.
WHAT ELSE DO YOU DO TO STAY HEALTHY?
I’m a vegetarian. I stopped eating meat at boarding school because it always looked so disgusting, deciding I would only eat what I called ‘happy meat’, which would now be called ‘organic’. And then the more you don’t eat it, the more you don’t want it.
WHERE DID YOU GET YOUR ARTISTIC STREAK?
Probably from my Dad (the interior designer Christopher Vane Percy). He’s a very aesthetic person and loves symmetry – Christmas and birthdays were always very beautiful. He also taught me a love of classical art and Greek mythology.
HAVE YOU EVER POSED NUDE YOURSELF?
I photographed myself naked for Tatler a few years ago, and my husband and I were going to do a double portrait after our wedding when we were both in really good shape. But now he’s decided he needs to get to the gym again first!
HAVE YOU HAD MANY MALE CLIENTS?
A few, although I vet them heavily first, because a random guy getting naked in my home is a bit intimidating. Men tend to be a lot more vain self-conscious and self-critical, which surprised me. Also, if a man doesn’t have any muscle tone in his arms and chest, it’s hard to make a decent image, whereas a woman, irrespective of size or shape, always has feminine curves to work with.
YOU USE FILM RATHER THAN DIGITAL PHOTOGAPHY, WHY IS THIS?
Digital colour is almost too naked – there is more of a fleshy quality – whereas film creates more richness of tone. I don’t understand the obsession with HD. It takes the veil away, the romantic edge.
WHAT DO PEOPLE SAY WHEN THEY FIND OUT WHAT YOU DO?
Men always ask if I ever need an assistant, while generally women are thinking, “Oh God, is she imagining me naked?” It’s definitely a dinner party conversation starter.
Grace Vane Percy is exhibiting a selection of her nudes a part of Art Palm Beach 2012 until tomorrow.
Practical Parenting Jan 2012
“It was very liberating,” says Lea 32, proud mum of Louis, “I felt beyond special. When you’re pregnant you have a different sense of your body, you want to celebrate it and every curve. And the biggest is of course your bump!”
Nude Portrait studio sessions, £575 plus prints from Grace Vane Percy nude female portraiture gracevanepercy.com
ES Magazine Dec 2011
“No pants or bra today” Grace Vane Percy instructs me over the phone a few hours before our shoot. I’d like you to exfoliate and moisturise, and then you can’t put on any clothing that will leave marks, so that your skin will be in perfect condition to be photographed.” So I am obliged to go commando. How nice, Grace has studied the techniques of the Old Masters in Florence and I feel like a piece of clay she is going to sculpt. I obey her instructions and leave my flat with an inward shiver.
This Christmas the ultimate present to a loved one as a black and white picture by a photographer who specialises in the nude, and Grace is the best in town, if not the world. I ask which famous bodies she’s photographed, but she is reassuringly discreet. She even has legal agreements not to discuss some of them.
Being a burlesque dancer, I’m used to people looking at my body, but I’m done up onstage, covered with body makeup, a spangley merkin, nipple pasties and chunky costume jewellery. Today will be interesting because I’ll be in my most natural, raw state.
Her Notting Hill flat-cum-studio is at the top of a spiral staircase and she’s waiting for me with the door open. She would be the perfect model, willowy with long cascading hair, but prefers to be behind the lens. Inside, the studio is open plan with high a ceiling of wooden beams suspended fro which is a black backdrop, rolling out into the room. She makes me a camomile tea and we chat about the shoot.
As I lift my cup Grace notices my 1930’s French manicure, bright red with a white tip. She shakes her head and hands me a bottle of nail varnish remover. “In black and white photos those nails will come out black, and we don’t want any distractions from your body. I work in black and white because it simplifies the picture and helps the eye to see structure, rather than being overwhelmed by the colour of flesh. It emphasises light and form.” She notices my sad expression so we try some shots with the nails and jewellery first, before removing it all.
“People like to be appreciated, and having your body admired is the biggest compliment going,” she says. I agree, realising that this is why I enjoy performing burlesque. I disrobe and brush out my curls, feeling comfortable in Grace’s presence. I apply basic make-up and ask her what it is about the body that inspires her. She recites her favourite quote by Kenneth Clark: “The naked body is in itself an object upon which the eye dwells with pleasure. For us, the human body is the most sensual and immediately interesting object.”
She then goes through the basic posture requirements: lengthen the core; don’t sink into your chest; flick out the hands to make them appear natural, not placed in a contrived pose; stand with your weight on one foot and the other resting nect to it to crate a curve in the hips; lift the face towards the light and keep a neutral but pleasant expression.
Grace only works with film, rather than on digital, with only 15 shots per roll, so every pose is arranged slowly and precisely, much as a painter would position a life model. Between clicks I ask about her clients. “They’re ordinary women in the best possible way: without the toned figures of models. I love that. I love the softness of flesh. It is far easier to find something beautiful about a woman with a bit of meat on the bone.” I agree. I’ve always been proud to be a woman and I’m glad that I’m able to celebrate it through burlesque.
But, like burlesque, nude photography is sometimes placed on the porn spectrum. I ask Grace whether she thinks there is more than a sexual pleasure in looking at the naked body. “The beauty of the female form is compelling in so many ways,” she suggests, “it’s a visual feast.”
We go through a variety of positions: standing, lying, sitting; in some poses I cover my nipples with my arms and hair, and others are more free, with my arms over my head. Lying on my side, head propped in my hand, I feel like a Pre-Raphaelite vision. Who has been her main inspiration? “Czechoslovakian photographers from the 1093’s such as Rudolf Kopitz. It was a time when athletic, Spartan style body was of fascination. Europeans also got into exercising naked”.
After the shoot we have another tea. Why does she think women choose to be photographed in the nude, I wonder. “They want to experience their body and feel good about it. There is always something beautiful about someone; it’s my job to show them.” I can’t wait to see what she found in me.
GQ UK Nov 2011
There are two kinds of being naked. One when you’re alone, another when you’re being watched. When I’m naked in front of a camera I am half-shy, but it’s like I’m performing: vulnerable, playful, a little vain. It is a thrill all of its own and, yes, it turns me on.
She also swears by a floor-length mirror. “You’d be amazed how arousing it is to watch yourself being photographed. There’s something about that level of scrutiny, of moving your body into its most beautiful shape, or of directing from behind the lens, that leads you into your own dimension.”
Encouraged by H, I contact photographer Grace Vane Percy.
A slender brunette with a light, balletic poise, Grace has worked in London and New York for eight years taking nude female portraits. Her fame has spread entirely through word of mouth – a NyLon group of delighted clientele.
Grace Vane Percy creates artistic and atmospheric, beautiful timeless black and white female nude portraits. Photography meets fine art, these nude images are so beautiful and evocative without being overt. The quality of the archival prints is just beautiful.
Celebrate your natural feminine beauty with fine art nude portrait photography. It’s about creating a really nice portrait of you.
A Naked portrait the Perfect wedding gift, first anniversary gift, birthday or luxury gift for discerning women.
Did you know that your first wedding anniversary is paper? Making one of Grace’s beautiful archival hand prints the perfect gift. Surprise your husband with something he would never have expected an artistic nude portrait.
Having nude portraits taken is something I’ve always wanted to do, I just never knew how to go about it. When I heard about Grace and saw her website, I thought “perfect” now is the time! I felt much more at ease knowing that I was going to see a female photographer. The actual session was much easier and more enjoyable than I had anticipated. My husband was so thrilled with the results, he had seen and exhibition of beautiful black and white female nude and thought that it would never be something that I’d do, especially without telling him!!